Past Is Prologue in Presidential Race’s Closing Arguments

The 2012 U.S. presidential campaign, a $2 billion cacophony of promises for the future, is ending with homages to the recent past

  • Share
  • Read Later
Brooks Kraft / Corbis for TIME

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event in Hilliard, Ohio, on Nov. 2, 2012.

Nothing is new anymore. The new winter fashion is still stripes and bright color. The new television sitcoms feature single women in big cities. John Grisham tops the best-seller list. Even in politics, everything is repurposed nostalgia. The 2012 U.S. presidential campaign, a $2 billion cacophony of promises for the future, is ending with homages to the recent past.

For Mitt Romney, it’s 2008 all over again. Except this time, he is playing the role of Barack Obama, the inspirational candidate who can heal the nation, fix Washington and deliver change. In Iowa on Sunday, he announced, “This time demands bringing America together.” He promised to work with politicians of both parties. “This has gathered the strength of a movement,” he said later, in Pennsylvania, of his own campaign. “I ask you to vote for real change,” he continued. “I won’t just represent one party. I will represent one nation.”

For Barack Obama, it’s 2004 all over again. Except this time, he is playing the role of George W. Bush, the incumbent President with a significant technological and logistical campaign advantage. All the numbers look like they did before. Obama’s approval rating on the eve of the election neatly matches Bush’s in late October 2004. The national polls, and the polls in Ohio, which looks again to be the decisive state, match up too.

(PHOTOS: Political Pictures of the Week, Oct. 26–Nov. 2)

On the stump, Obama has traded Bush’s national-security attacks on John Kerry for economic attacks on Romney. “You know me,” Obama told a crowd in Ohio on Saturday. “You may not agree with every decision I’ve made … but you know what I believe. You know where I stand.” Without attribution, Obama was quoting Bush, who told a crowd in Toledo, Ohio, on Oct. 29, 2004, “Americans have seen how I do my job. Even when you might not agree with me, you know what I believe, you know where I stand.”

Neither candidate’s pitch means much when removed from the rhetoric of a late-fall stump speech. Romney, the one promising unity, has promised for two years a frontal assault on Democrats from Day One in office, when he plans to begin the repeal of Obamacare. A year ago, Romney promised to veto a deficit compromise that included just one dollar of new taxes for every $10 of spending cuts, a position that would all but ensure gridlock for his Administration’s agenda in a Democratic Senate. As the Associated Press pointed out, as Romney promised national unity, he also cut an ad supporting a Republican candidate in North Dakota that promises to “stop the liberal Reid-Pelosi agenda.’’

As for Obama, his quotations of Bush are belied by his own campaign anthem. At every rally for nearly a year, he has walked on stage to the same song, “City of Blinding Lights,” a rock ballad from the Irish group U2 that begins, “The more you see, the less you know/ The less you find out as you go.” It’s a fitting pick for a leader who has struggled to connect with Washington and struggled to hold the connection with his supporters from 2008. “If we know him, why does he seem so much slighter than the Barack Obama who thrilled the country a mere four years ago?” asked the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd, one of most prominent liberal opinion writers in the nation, in her final last pre-election column. “If we know him, why were we so stunned at his crimped, self-destructive performance in the first debate.”

(MORE: October Jobs Numbers Are Big News … for the Next President)

But the closing arguments don’t matter so much. As Obama said in Virginia on Saturday, “I’m sort of a prop in the campaign.” The race has been stable since the summer. The country is narrowly divided. The polls differ only in who they predict will turn out to vote on Tuesday. That outcome will almost certainly have more to do with the invisible mechanics of modern, billion-dollar campaigns than the final utterances of their candidates on the stump.

Despite the rhetoric on both sides, this has become an election about small things — about targeted messages for a few million voters in a half-dozen swing states. There is more enthusiasm on the Republican side but no real movement for either man; Obama remains the measurable favorite. And the victor wins stewardship of a federal government that will likely continue to deadlock, on the brink of national self-immolation. If 2008 was ultimately an election about hope, this one has been defined more by fear over the path the country has taken since the financial implosion of 2008. Whoever wins, the country will most likely get the most predictable outcome: closely divided, deeply polarized and faced with the same hard problems, and same painful list of possible solutions, that the nation faced last year before this campaign even began.

MORE: Viewpoint: The Case for Mitt Romney

MORE: Viewpoint: The Case for Barack Obama

PHOTOS: America Votes: Election 2012

44 comments
BenevolentLawyer
BenevolentLawyer

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter told the President of the Mormon Church that they would lose their TAX exempt status if they did not stop their blatant and institutionalized racism. As a result, they were forced to stop their entrenched racial practices. 

Please watch the FULL video below. I posted it especially for my fellow Christians who are being bombarded, on Christian TV and Radio, with lies stating that Romney's religion has always been an inclusive one. 

Mitt Romney was complicit in the systematic racism against Blacks people in the USA and elsewhere--until the intervention by President Carter. In addition, Romney was a highly placed Mormon official (Bishop and Chairman), who chose to embrace and foster the racist practices of his church. 

Romney is not FIT to rule a diverse country like ours. He should not be elected leader of the free world.

BenevolentLawyer
BenevolentLawyer

In 1978, After President Jimmy Carter told the President of the Mormon Church that they would lose their class exempt status if they did not stop their blatant and institutionalized racism, they were forced tostop their entrenched racial practices. Please watch this FULL video. I posted it especially for my fellow Christians who are being bombarded with the claims that Romney's religion has always been aninclusive one. 

Romney was complicit in the systematic racism against Blacks people in the USA and elsewhere-- until the intervention by President Carter. Romney was a highly placed Mormon official, who chose to embrace and foster the racist practices of his church. Romney is not FIT to rule a diverse country like ours. He should not be elected leader of the free world. 

http://youtu.be/5t6t113syr0 

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

...economic attacks on Romney[:] “You know me,” Obama told a crowd in Ohio Saturday. “You may not agree with every decision I’ve made. . . But you know what I believe. You know where I stand."

When this is over, I hope you get a good long rest, Michael Scherer.

allthingsinaname
allthingsinaname

I am not up to making the argument that Stewart can make, so I will keep it simple.

It is all cynical and BS because the Press and it's pundits all report BS.

When are you guys ever going to live up to your responsibilities?

BenevolentLawyer
BenevolentLawyer

Whenever I want to start my day with some mirth, I read Scherer's skewed balderdash or read Halperin's fevered promotion of Romney. Always Skewed all the TIME!!

yrag46
yrag46

.......................................Romney Business-Creation Record in Massachusetts............................

.The Bureau of Labor Statistics data on private-sector establishment births and deaths, show that during the Romney administration from 2002 to 2006, the number of business startups in the U.S. as a whole went up 7.4 percent.

During that same period in Massachusetts, the number of startups fell 9.6 percent. Only Kansas and Minnesota, with 10.6 percent and 13.5 percent decreases, respectively, ranked worse.

Romney’s business-creation ranking was 48th out of 50 States for his one and only term in office.

A real whiz-kid.....yeah right

stuart_zechman
stuart_zechman

Michael Scherer:

I'll let the other conmmenters deal with your bizarre description of the vapid, lunatic Dowd as "liberal," because I've got something more important to share with you regarding a recent column by another New York Times opinion writer --the usually credibility-less "conservative" Brooks.

David Brooks may have finally talked me out of voting for Romney:

link to David Brooks' selling Romney's malleable persona as useful to the centrists' agenda

Published: 01 November 2012 09:08 PM (excerpted here)

"Why Romney is more likely to get big stuff done"

"Let’s try to imagine what the world would look like if President Barack Obama is re-elected.

Washington over the next four years would probably look much as it has over the last two: Obama running the White House, Republicans controlling the House and Democrats managing the Senate. Despite a change-hungry electorate, we’d end up with pretty much the same cast of characters.

Obama would probably try to enact the agenda he laid out most clearly in his recent interview with The Des Moines Register:Obama said he would try to re-create the Obama-Boehner budget deal of two summers ago, with $2.50 of spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases...

The first order of business would be the budget deal, averting the fiscal cliff. Obama would go to Republicans in the Senate and say, “Look, we’re stuck with each other. Let’s cut a deal for the sake of the country.” He would easily find 10 Republican senators willing to go along with a version of a Grand Bargain.

Then Obama would go to the House. He’d ask Eric Cantor, the majority leader, if there were votes for such a deal. The answer would probably be no. Republican House members still have more to fear from a primary challenge from the right than from a general election challenge from the left. Obama is tremendously unpopular in their districts. By running such a negative presidential campaign, Obama has won no mandate for a Grand Bargain. Obama himself is not going to suddenly turn into a master legislative craftsman on the order of Lyndon B. Johnson..."

"Now let’s try to imagine the world if Mitt Romney wins. Republicans would begin with the premise that the status quo is unsustainable. The mounting debt is ruinous. The byzantine tax and regulatory regimes are stifling innovation and growth.

Republicans would like to take the reform agenda that Republican governors have pursued in places like Indiana and take it to the national level: structural entitlement reform; fundamental tax reform. These reforms wouldn’t make government unrecognizable (we’d probably end up spending 21 percent of GDP in Washington instead of about 24 percent), but they do represent a substantial shift to the right.

At the same time, Romney would probably be faced with a Democratic Senate. He would also observe the core lesson of this campaign: Conservatism loses; moderation wins. Romney’s prospects began to look decent only when he shifted to the center.

To get his tax and entitlement reforms through the Democratic Senate, Romney would have to make some serious concessions: increase taxes on the rich as part of an overall reform; abandon the most draconian spending cuts in Paul Ryan’s budget; reduce the size of his lavish tax-cut promises.

As President Romney made these concessions, conservatives would be in uproar. Talk-radio hosts would be the ones accusing him of Romnesia, forgetting all the promises he made in the primary season. But Republicans in Congress would probably go along. They wouldn’t want to destroy a Republican president. Romney would champion enough conservative reforms to allow some Republicans to justify their votes.

The bottom line is this: If Obama wins, we’ll probably get small-bore stasis; if Romney wins, we’re more likely to get bipartisan reform. Romney is more of a flexible flip-flopper than Obama. He has more influence over the most intransigent element in the Washington equation: House Republicans. He’s more likely to get big stuff done."

So that's basically the opposite of the story that the Democratic center-wing has been selling the Village about Obama.

There are some basic flaws in that argument, though, chief of which would be the yarn about how the popular right wing --the House caucus members the center-right Brooks disparages as "the most intransigent element"-- would somehow kneel to Romney when they've told Boehner and Cantor time and again to f off. That's the sort of intransigence that says "get the government's hands off of my Medicare!"That Brooks can make the claim that Romney can exercise Obama-esque shame-n-blame power over the popular right (the way Obama partisans easily manipulate the popular left) is a testament to that columnist's capacity to shamelessly shill.

I mean, come on. Does anybody really believe that Romney can move the House rightists to go along with the establishment center-wing? What is Romney going to do to get honest-to-God Tea Party Republicans to fold and go along with Brookings' agenda for "reform" --imply that they're racists for opposing Their President? Good Lord, it's not like these are terrified liberal Democrats.

But...if this sort of influence were likely, if that's a plausible outcome, it's something to consider. What's even more important to consider, and even more plausible, is the first scenario outlined by Brooks, the one in which Obama is re-elected, yet fails to "do the big stuff" of Evan Bayh's Third Way dreams.

The plausibility of that scenario alone --that Obama is nowhere near competent enough to get the New Deal-destroying Grand Bargain past a populist right-wing shared House-- is worth my vote, probably. If Obama is as much of a colossal failure at selling the centrist Democratic agenda as Brooks makes him out to be, then I'd better suck it up and vote for him, with the optimistic, yet realistic expectation that Obama should miserably fail for the next four years.

It's possible. Obama may only be successful at passing "historic," incredibly bad, Third Way policy regimes when he's got a House majority that includes symbolism-driven, liberal Democrats to shame, bribe and bamboozle. It may be that the worst of what an Obama Administration can do to the country is over, now that we have precious gridlock. The best case scenario is that either way --Obama loses, Obama wins-- the "big stuff" agenda the center has inflicted on the country comes to an end, at least for the next term.

We can only hope, I suppose, which is why I'm voting at all.

Brooks makes a somewhat reasonable case that a vote for Romney is a vote for an effective Grand Bargainer. Maybe, if I just forget for a few days how utterly, catastrophically wrong David Brooks has been about "the New Economy," post-invasion "progress" in Iraq, and pretty much everything, I can see things Brooks' way --and vote against Romney.

I've still got a couple of days to mull it over, though. I'm still undecided.

Thanks for reading and considering this, Michael Scherer.

tommyudo
tommyudo

Yes Michael, the past is prologue – it will certainly be that tomorrow.The 2000 chaos in Florida has already started. Ohio will be a replay of 2004. That’s already started too .

The GOP voter suppression “fix” is in for at least those two states, and probably Colorado as well. My scorn isespecially directed to those selfish and gullible old geezers down in Florida, who enjoy their retirement goodies, as that state circles the ethicaldrain. If the GOP suppression works, then many of us will continue to  view Willard with utter scorn andcontempt. It will be the Obama Derangement Syndrome on steroids. Meanwhile, the MSM will pat itself on the back about the wonders of the democratic process, and continue to wear their knee pads so as to gain access to the new administration,just as if political theft never happened. They will chalk it up to “conspiracy theories.”Hell, Jay Newton Small won’t even have to call Ryan “Mr. Vice President”, she can just continue to call him “Paul.”

CerebralSmartie
CerebralSmartie

Michael Scherer

Your point about everything being "more of the same" was clever, however, I wonder if voters perceive Mr. Romney as the candidate who is very much like George W Bush, in some odious ways.  Mitt Romney,like former President George W BUSH, seems very inclined to talk about war.  Romney's financial backers  seem to be war profiteering companies. George W Bush and VP Cheyney were closely tied to war profiteers , like Halliburton. Some of Romney's foreign advisors are the same advisors that George W Bush had. Check the facts. Romney recruited the same people who were the architects of the Iraq War. Throughout much or Romney's campaign, with the exception of the final few weeks, Romney was deeply critical of President Obama's foreign policies and repetitively derided the POTUS for not taking much more action. What sort of action? Rational voters have every reason to consider the strong possibility that Romney would be like George W Bush and Mitt Romney would be inclined take military action, before considering all options.  In a nutshell: "Shoot first. Ask questions later."   Mitt Romney's book "No Apologies"spelled out criticism of Obama's so-called "apologetic" stance. While Romney's critics debunked the concept of the "Apology Tour" ,( see http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2011/02/obamas_apology_tour.html), many critics failed to emphasize that Mitt Romney's war rhetoric and strong derision of Obama's foreign policies revealed that Romney, very much like George W Bush, might readily insert the USA into another unaffordable unfounded and unending war. Yes, it is more of the same. Just like the first time we elected President Obama, we still have the same key worry that we had with McCain/Palin. Romney=George W Bush. Two puppets.

fitty_three
fitty_three

Micheal Scherer:

Maureen Dowd?

Care to pontificate at us about black Americans too?

I mean, since you know both subjects equally well...

fitty_three
fitty_three

Real people are here today.  What a change from this weekend.

A lot of GOP citizens' united money was being earned!

grape_crush
grape_crush

 > Maureen Dowd, one of most prominent liberal opinion writers in the nation

According to whom? Michael Scherer and Maureen Dowd?

If Dowd's writing actually does get mentioned somewhere left-ish, it's usually accompanied by a figurative snort of derision. I don't know too many people that take her opinion column cum romance novel too seriously.

kemaltolan
kemaltolan

I do not get why so many people get brainwashed. The track record of W. Mitt Romney is more than checkered. You should imagine how many life's he has destroyed as owner of Bain Capital just to get richer. As Governor he was more a Democrat than a Republican and as President ?????I do not get it.ButEverything happens for a reason,live it, love it, learn from it!Make your smile change the world,but don't let the worldchange your smile.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CMS82wZnBA

sacredh
sacredh

"Maureen Dowd, one of most prominent liberal opinion writers in the nation,".

Pee Wee Herman: Always willing to lend a hand.

gysgt213
gysgt213

"The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd, one of most prominent liberal opinion writers in the nation, in her final last pre-election column."

If this is true then the liberals should swap Ms. Dowd for one of the great thinkers in the Republican party. Sarah Palin.

S_Deemer
S_Deemer

I cannot remember a campaign where there was a greater divergence of opinion about the winner.

Quants Predicting an Obama victory:Electoral-vote.com: 294/220 (24 too close to call);Fivethirtyeight.com: 307/231;Huffington Post: 277/191 (70 tossup);Sam Wang: 303/235;Votamatic.org: 332/206

Pundits Predicting a Romney victory:

Larry Kudlow: 330/218;Joe Scarborough: "Romney will carry Ohio and be swept to victory by a comfortable margin.";Karl Rove: "Let’s call it 51%-48%, with Mr. Romney carrying at least 279 Electoral College votes, probably more.”;George Will: 321/217;Michael Barone: 315/223;Glenn Beck: 321/217

They can't all be right. Wednesday morning, if Obama loses, the Democrats will be blaming voter suppression (of which there appears to be quite a bit). If Romney loses, the Republicans will be blaming Hurricane Sandy, and a vast liberal conspiracy that includes the MSM and the polling organizations.

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

 one of most prominent liberal opinion writers in the nation, in her final last pre-election column

You're kidding, right? I don't know a single liberal commentator who doesn't think Maureen Dowd is a blithering idiot! And the example you're citing is a perfect example of the reason why.

bobell
bobell

The most important -- and egregious -- aspect of the contest as we approach V-Day is the continuing Republican efforts at voter suppression. When people in early voting lines in Florica have to wait seven hours or more, and when Ohioans are told by their secretary of state that any innocent error on their provisional-voting affidavits (which election officials are not allowed to help with) will get their votes thrown out, Obama is right -- the candidates are just props.  Republican state officials are trying to seize the reins, and it's not clear whether they can be stopped.

If Romney somehow squeaks out a narrow electoral majority, with tiny margins in swing states, half the country is going to feel disenfranchised, and I'd expect mild-mannered Harry Reid to declare a war of scorched earth. If you don't think things can get any worse, you haven't been reading Swampland long emough.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

"Maureen Dowd, one of most prominent liberal opinion writers in the nation,"

Liberal? hahhahhahahahha

dawnorthen
dawnorthen

@yrag46 dont you know the past is the past? look to the future baby, forget about the past. bury it burn it borne with it!

grape_crush
grape_crush

I read that column when it came out. What a mar-oon.

> There are somebasic flaws in that argument, though...

That's an understatement. One could just as easily say that Americans should vote in a Dem super-majority in both chambers so Obama can get 'some big things done'. It's a stupid argument on Brooks' part, a dimwitted overcommitment to a supreme principle of bipartisanship instead of serious, honest debate about what is good and right policy.

> Does anybody really believe that Romney can move the House rightists to go along with the establishment center-wing?

Romney? Who knows? What I think is that - with Obama-the-imaginary-boogeyman out of office - we go back to the trajectory we were on back in 2004; deficits don't matter, tax cuts, cowboy diplomacy, and the selling off the public commons to big business.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

@grape_crush Honestly, I laughed in the other thread with 73x cited Peggy Noonan and quoted her column supporting Romney. I laugh just as much at anyone taking Dowd seriously.

bobell
bobell

We don't need PeeWee in Swampland. We already have ahandout.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

@gysgt213 As bad as Dowd is, the only way I'd do that swap is if we got a future draft choice as well.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@S_Deemer  

Do you notice that the rightie "polls" except for Rove all "predict" a landslide?

There's a certain amount of propagandizing / wishful thinking going on.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@S_Deemer 

And I will tell the righties to STFU and crawl back under the rock for another 2 years. 

CerebralSmartie
CerebralSmartie

@bobell I am particularly worried about the voting in Florida, specifically at the large universities. University of Central Florida has a huge population of voters and so does University of South Florida in Tampa. These rank in the top of the nation for the highest populations of students. For students at these gargantuan universities, early voting was only possible at county libraries, none of which were in walking distance for students. Election day will be jammed!

outsider
outsider

That's what I was thinking. Once upon a time maybe, but not now.

But then again, I'm willing to cop to what Sherer and Adam and Alex have all said; we complain when the articles don't say what we want.

So what do I know?

@Paul,nnto

bobell
bobell

Hey, c'mon, PNNTO. She writes for the NYTimes. That makes her liberal ipso facto.  Ask Nate Silver.

BenevolentLawyer
BenevolentLawyer

@EdPiedra It did not get changed until 1978. Even then, there has been no formal repudiation by Romney of his complicity in the racist positions of his church.

As for your other remarks, I am beginning to think you are stupid. Are you irrational or do you just play an idiot on this board? That was a rhetorical question. 

Coach63DH
Coach63DH

@PerryWhite1 @BenevolentLawyer   I have a standing offer with my conservative friends that I could produce ten examples of corporate journalism to every one they could show me of main-stream liberal media.  At this date they have all given up trying and have stopped talking about it, at least to me personally.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@grape_crush Never thought I'd have anything to thank Brooks over but if he can get Stuart Zechman to go to the polls and vote for Barack Obama... I don't even care the reason.

tom.litton
tom.litton

@53_3 @S_Deemer That isn't what i see.  What i see is the people predicting an Obama victory are doing so based on polling data.  The people predicting Romney victory are doing so based on the force or wishful thinking or taro cards or something.

grape_crush
grape_crush

> we complain when the articles don't say what we want.

No, we mostly complain when the articles are somewhat analytically off-base, silly, or display an ignorance of history and fact. Or should, anyway.

I'd put Dowd's column* in the off-base/silly categories.

(*columns)

outsider
outsider

Good point

@Paul,nnto @outsider2011